Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emma Sintim-Only female driver in Parliament

Emma Sintim-Only female driver in Parliament
The Mirror, Saturday, March 14, 2009 (Mirror News) Page 34
Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah

“What a man can do, a woman can do better.” This saying has been the cardinal principle of genders activists, who have for some time snot, been pushing issues about women to the fore and putting in programmes to ensure females rub shoulders with their male counterparts. Now, women are seen doing work which was hitherto considered as the domain of men due to the increasing awareness and encouragement by the government and the civil society about how far women can go in life, only if they could shelve the ancient mentality that the woman’s place is only in the kitchen.

When I first saw 48-year old Emma Sintim hanging around the Member of Parliament (MP) for New Juaben South, Ms Beatrice Bernice Boateng, I though she may be one of those people who trooped to Parliament daily to seek assistance from their MPs.

Little did I know that Madam Sintim was the driver of that female MP. I became curious since all the drivers I had seen MPs over the years were men. How can a female MP be driven by a female driver? That is the question that was asked by a friend I was chatting with. Without waiting for an answer, he exclaimed, “This is real empowerment of women. Soon women will overtake us by the storm.”

Madam Sintim told The Mirror that she learnt driving in 1990 from her late husband and now she is reaping the benefits of her efforts.

The driver, who said she was the Market Queen of the Koforidua Dwaben Serwaa Market, said she had known the MP for the past two years. “I started driving her during the campaign period and I was happy upon winning the election, she decided that I should continue to be her driver.”
Being the only female driver among over 200 drivers chauffeuring the country’s legislators Ms Sintim feels proud to be part of the few Ghanaian women who have taken jobs considered to be men’s preserve.

She is a proud mother of two girls, one of whom has completed the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and is currently working at the Presbyterian Press in Accra. The other one is currently pursuing higher academic laurels in engineering in China.

She expressed her gratitude to Ms Boateng for giving her the opportunity to have a feel of how Parliament is operated and called on supporters of the various political parties not to consider their political opponents as enemies because she realized that Members of Parliament (MPs) were friends rather than enemies. “What I have seen in Parliament surprises me since the relationship among the various parties is cordial and are always seen eating and chatting together after they have finished performing the day’s parliamentary duties,” she noted.

On why she chose a female to be her driver, Madam Boateng said since the Beijing Declaration of affirmative action, women had been employing a number of tactics to practicalise women and gender issues. She explained that in terms of job opportunities, women were less privileged to secure jobs, saying that it was, therefore, an opportunity to reduce unemployment among women in the country. Madam Boateng noted that women were very careful in every field of endeavour they found themselves in, adding that, that explained why women were not normally involved in accidents.

“My gesture is also a ways of saying thank you to women in New Juaben South Constituency, who overwhelmingly endorsed my candidature in addition to encouraging women to strive to achieve higher laurels in all fields of endeavour, “ she said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Parliament Misses Women

A Parliament Misses Women
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, March 17, 2009. Page 9 (Features)

Leigh S. Ranck
The elections in December have brought about change, some good and some bad. The bad news is that the number of women in the Parliament has been reduced from 25 to 20 out of the 230 seats in Parliament. The good news is, of course that for the first time in the history of Ghana, a woman is Speaker. Retired Supreme Court Justice Joyce Bamford-Addo holds such a powerful position in Parliament.

“Any elevation of women into position of power and leadership must be celebrated,” Senior Porgamme Officer for ABANTU for Development, Hamida Harrison said. “We all look at them and say we can all get there, but we recognize that one woman cannot make a difference.”
Like most countries, women make up 50 per cent of the population of Ghana, but women represent only nine per cent of members of Parliament, down from 11 per cent in the 2004 Parliament.

Many women groups are calling for this to change. Like ABANTU for Development, the Regional Inter-sectoral Gender Network (RISEGNET) called for Parliament and President John Evans Atta Mills, to ensure that women have equal opporunit to serve in their government in a press briefing in early February.

Only 102 women ran for seats in Parliament according to ABANTU. That is almost have the 230 seats available. However, only 20 women won seats. “We (ABANTU) advocate for policies that are gender sensitive,” Ms Harrison said. “We focus mainly on district assemblies. They offer more space [for women] because they have about 5000 seats within the local government compared to 230 [in Parliament].”

District Assembly seats are more interesting to women, because it allows them to stay close to their families and still run the household, according to Harrison. When women win seats in Parliament, they are forced to move away from their families to Accra. This is especially important to women from farther away regions up in the North and West.

The Upper West Region suffers from a serious lack of representation of women. Women make up 52 per cent of the Upper East Region’s population but it has had very few women in commanding roles in Parliament. They have had two deputy ministers, only one district chief executive and one presiding member.

“There has never been a woman regional minister for the Upper East Region and only few women have been in assemblies,” Dr. Daud James Abang-Gos, Chairman of RISEGNET said at the press briefing. “This does not ensure equitable development.”

To combat unequal representation of women in government, in 1960, the Representation of the People’s bill or Women’s Members Bill was passed. It required 10 seats be set aside for women representatives. Almost 50 years later, only 10 more seats have been won by women. “Looking at the cases of other countries, studies have shown that where quota systems have been used, women’s participation in government has increased dramatically,” Ms Harrison said.

Thirty of the world’s 190 countries apply some form of quota for women in government. The African National Congress in 1994 as well as others institutions such as the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 and Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), agreed to have women’s representation at 30 per cent in all forms of government.

Some issues can only be raised and solved by women according to Ms Harrison. That’s why they are called women’s issues. Issues like child care, school fees and birth rights are issues that are important to women. “Policies have different impact on women and men,” Harrison said. “If women are not there, they cannot say whether the policy is gender sensitive.”

ABANTU has a mentoring programme for young girls so that they realize that they too can be involved in government. “Politics is our lives, we can’t leave it to other people. We must make conscious effort to direct the minds of the young people back to politics,” Ms Harrison said. “We have grown up believing that policy making is a man’s job.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Commitment to Women's Empowerment needed

Justify FullDaily Graphic, Tuesday, March 10, 2009 (Gender & Children) Page 11
Women’s Empowerment needs Commitment
Salome Donkor

The first world conference on the status of women was held in Mexico City to coincide with the 1975 International Women’s Year, to remind the international community that discrimination against women continued to be a persistent in most pasts of the world.

The conference led to the declaration of United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), proclaimed by the General Assembly which launch a new era in global efforts to promote the advancement of women by opening a world-wide dialogue on gender equality.

A process was set in motion to involve deliberation, negotiation, setting objectives, identifying obstacles and reviewing the progress made.

Despite these efforts, many women around the world continue to suffer discrimination and challenges posed by social attitudes and policies that continue to condone and perpetuate violence against women and girls.

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides a framework for equality of all persons and outlaws discrimination on the basis on gender/sex. It promises to protect and promote all human rights and also prohibits all harmful customary practices.

However, the Network of Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), a coalition of organizations and individuals advocating for gender equality which made an assessment on issues of concern to women in Africa in 2008, has established that discriminatory practices against women in the name of culture still prevailed in Africa while increasing efforts are being made to address them

Making a statement in Parliament to mark this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, on the theme, “Women and Men United to end violence against women and girls,” the Member of Parliament (MP) for Twifo Ati Mokwa, Mrs. Elizabeth Amoah-Tetteh, observed that women empowerment continued to be a central feature of the United Nations efforts to address socio-economic and political challenges confronting women across the world.

To add her voice to the calls on the need to get more women involved in politics and decision-making, an American philanthropist, writer and gender activist, Dr Swanee Hunt has urged Ghanaian women to be firm and resolute in the use of the imaginative and visionary qualities to promote the interest of women and other vulnerable groups in the society.

She describe Ghanaian women as energetic people with strong, imaginative and visionary qualities which could take them far if they received that necessary support to develop their capabilities.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic after a meeting with 30 Ghanaian women, made up of parliamentarians, lawyers and representatives from non-governmental organizations, during a three-day visit to the country recently, she said Ghanaian women have made giant strides in national development, despite the challenges.

Dr. Hunt, who is a Lecturer of Public Policy, is committed to the attainment of gender parity, especially as a means to end war and rebuild societies, as well as to alleviate poverty and other forms of human suffering.

She served as President Clinton’s ambassador to Austria from 1993-1997, where she hosted negotiations and international symposia, which focused on stabilizing the neighbouring Balkan states. She had also worked extensively Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and a little in South Africa and Liberia, and notably with the most strong women all over the world.

Ambassador Hunt was the Founding Director of the Women and Public Policy Programme at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she also teaches, “Inclusive Security,” exploring why women are systematically excluded from peace processes and the policy steps needed to rectify the problem. She has conducted research, training and consultations with women leaders in some 60 countries.

She pointed out that as a gender advocate and women’s rights advocate, she decided to visit the country, to learn more about the roles of women in the country.

She described Rwandan women as strong women who played a crucial roles during the ethnic genocide and pointed out that with the Hutsi, Tutsi conflict some key women in Rwanda, namely Inyumba Aloisia and Rose Kabuya, played crucial roles.

Dr Hunt said 14 years after the genocide, Rwanda’s constitution adopted after a referendum held in 2003 guaranteed 30 per cent quota of the 80 seats in the Chambers of Deputies, for women.

The also created women councils in villages where they run offices and they got themselves in the constitutional committee with 30 per cent set aside for women who only contested those seats. Their strategy, she said, worked fantastically and after the country’s 2008 elections, the country became the first nation in the world whose legislative assembly had the majority of women when the ruling party of the ruling government headed by President Kagame endorsed, 35 female candidates in an inter-party coalition, adding that “if you want to look for a mother for Africa, look from Rwanda.”

She said Ghana lagged behind in representation of women in governance, explaining that in the US as of 2008 elections, there are 74 women serving in the current House of Representatives while the Senate had 17 women.

On the perception that ‘politics is a dirty game,’ she said it would continue to be so until women got actively involved and indicated that like other countries, women in the US women would be prodded many times before they will decide about politics.

She said such women should believe in women’s rights and concerns. She advised women not to think that they do not have the capabilities and were not qualified to contest elections and advised women to look at the EMILY’s List that helped to elect progressive female candidates who were pro-choice into office.

EMILY’s List, which is an acronym for “Early Money is Like Yeast,” is a political action committee (PAC) in the United States, founded by Ellen Malcolm in 1984. From the common political saying that, “Early money is like yeast because it helps to raise the dough,” the concept encourages women who want to enter into politics to start mobilising funds early.

Dr. Hunt advised Ghanaian women, who want to contest in elections at both the district assembly and national level to take the decision now by starting to organise immediately, so that they can contest the elections and win.

In another interview, Mrs. Gifty Kleman, the Member of Parliament for Lower West Akyem, who was meeting with Dr. Hunt, described it as fruitful and said it provided a congenial atmosphere for deliberations on women in politics, trafficking and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, (UNSC Resolution 1325) relating to women, peace and security.

The Resolution, which tasks the UN Systems and Member States to ensure gender considerations are thoroughly integrated into all aspects of its security platform from conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction, was unanimously adopted by the Security Council in October 2000. She said they deliberated on the negative effects of child trafficking in the country and the need to assess the cause of child trafficking in order to come out with workable solutions to the problem

She also said the meeting deliberated on the need for gender advocates to also contest in elections after doing their advocacy work to as serves as an inspiration to women.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Women's Day

Hello blog readers,

Today's International Women's Day. The global United Nations theme this year is, "Women and men united to end violence against women and girls."

In celebration of women and their achievements all over the world, I would like to refer you to a resourceful website dedicated to International Women's Day, highlighting events taking place all over the world during this period. Please click on the logo on the upper right hand side to link the the website.

Happy Women's Day,
Akofa Anyidoho.